Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tradition 3 - New Jammies!

Every Christmas Eve we would go to my grandma's house. And when we would come home, Santa's elves would have left us new pajamas! My mom insisted that they had magic dust on them that would make us very sleep. I always was very sleepy and never attributed it to an entire day of running around with my cousins and the 12 pounds of turkey and cookies we had consumed.

This is a tradition that I am excited to continue with my own children. I don't believe that Santa will be sending a matched set of family pajamas... but this was the first picture I found. I believe Buddy the Elf will be leaving their new jammies as he heads back to the North Pole - at least that's what my daughter has decided will happen. And she's usually right. Now to find some of that magic dust...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Tradition 2 - Gingerbread Houses

In spite of some good intentions, I did NOT bake any gingerbread this year. I kept forgetting to get molasses at the store. And really - I just decided to simplify a bit. So we tried out two store-bought house kits and they were both really fun.

The kit from Costco had more pieces, more candy and one additional color of icing compared to a different kit purchased from Macey's grocery store. That either amounts to more fun, or more assembly for mom and dad while the kids consume more sugar. You'll have to decide.

This is the house from the grocery store. Minnie and her friend put it together - and they needed more candy. The only complaint I have with the kits is that they don't use real Royal Icing. So instead of drying with the cement-quality hardness and structural stability of homemade gingerbread houses, the icing stayed a little wet and pliable for a long time. Consequently the roof kept sliding off due to the extreme candy weight. On the other hand, the house pieces in the kits are actually straight and I can never get mine to bake up quite right. So it's a give and take. Maybe we'll make our own icing next year.

I cleverly gave this house to Jenny so that her kids could admire it and my kids could not eat it. Hahahaha.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Tradition 1 - Elf on the Shelf

Only a few days until Christmas! I hope that you are getting things wrapped up and enjoying the holiday season. I thought that I would share a few of our family Christmas traditions this week.

Last year Jenny told me about this fabulous book - Elf on the Shelf. It's the story of the elves that Santa sends to watch over you during the Christmas season. Every night he tells Santa how good you have been. And every morning he hides in a new spot in the house! At Christmas, he will go back to the North Pole with Santa and be back next year!

The set comes with the elf story book as well as your very own elf. My kids are the perfect age for this tradition - they have been so excited to have an elf living here. Our elf is named Buddy (creative, I know) and they love talking to him and looking for him each morning when they wake up. I have even heard them whispering to each other "let's not do that! Buddy is watching and will tell Santa!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Simply Handmade

If you love things that are beautiful, hand-made or just plain craft-a-licious, then I have the blog for you!
LinkLinkThe company that I work for started with a scrapbook magazine, and now publishes several idea magazines - one for card-makers, bead/jewelry fanatics and now one just for those who love handmade projects. Our new publication is called Simply Handmade. It's a beautiful book, full of trendy projects that are easy enough to complete and cute enough that you actually want to do them! Check out this crafty Christmas ornament that you can make with scraps of fabric and ribbon! Must... resist... urge... to... redecorate entire Christmas tree...

For the techno-savvy crafter, they have just started the new Simply Handmade blog, which is full of even more inspiration, ideas and fun projects. So check them out!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Photoshop Tutorial

So my friend Becca suggested that I do a series of Photoshop tutorials for simple things like collages and filters and basic photo editing. Nothing advanced or weird - but things that would help the everyday photographer spruce up their pictures. So I'm going to pick a day each week and share a different Photoshop technique!

If you have a specific Photoshop question, post a comment. This won't start until the new year so don't be looking for anything tomorrow. And then you'll all be dying to try all these tips out with the new cameras that Santa's going to bring!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Digital Christmas cards

Christmas is almost here but you may still be thinking about Christmas cards (or know someone who is). If you don't want to wait for printed cards to be shipped to you, try digital delivery! Get your custom-designed card in a full-resolution file. E-mail them, make your own prints or post your card on your blog! Click here for the details.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 12

Whoa, the very last day of cookies! I'm going to finish off our 12 cookie recipes with another family favorite.

I always thought these were Italian cookies because the recipe comes from my mom's Italian family. When I finally asked about it... turns out the recipe is actually Hungarian. Who knew? It's my great-aunt Rose's super-secret recipe that took 27 years for my mom to get out of her. You'd better copy it down before Guido and Mario track me down.

Anise Twists
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 oz. anise extract
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2-4 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in milk, anise and baking powder. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough (it should be just not-sticky enough to work with but not so stiff that the cookies are dense and hard). Cover and chill for 1/2 hour.

Take a 2-inch ball of dough and roll it into a long snake (about 10 inches long and as thin as your pinky-finger). Holding the middle of the roll, twist the ends around (not too tight and not too loose). Place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with evaporated milk.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until just golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes. Place warm cookies in a plastic bag. The steam will soften the tops and prevent the cookies from being crisp. If you can keep from eating them all, they freeze nicely. I usually make 3 batches at a time and freeze enough to last a while.

I hope you have enjoyed these cookie recipes as much as I've loved sharing them with you. Nothing is better in the winter than a cookie and a warm mug of hot chocolate. Merry Christmas, from my family to yours!

Monday, December 15, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 11

So you now have all the award-winning recipes from our cookie swap and hopefully you've enjoyed one or more of them. Today I'm sharing the recipe that I picked to win. I have a thing for coconut. I think I love it slightly more than chocolate. So these were my favorites for the prize.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 egg white, whipped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 (14 ounce) package flaked coconut

Preheat oven 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with foil; grease and flour foil. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, egg white, extracts and coconut; mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets; slightly flatten each mound with a spoon.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Immediately remove from baking sheets (macaroons will stick if allowed to cool); cool on wire racks. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 10

Some of the cookie recipes have been a little labor-intensive. So lets have a simple one to start the weekend off right. These yummy cookies are as easy as - you guessed it - 1, 2, 3

1, 2, 3 Cookies
1 German Chocolate cake mix
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons water

Add eggs and water to dry cake mix. Stir with a fork until moistened. Sprinkle in nuts, Andes mint chips, crushed candy canes or chocolate chips. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until edges crack and cookie is set.

Wow, that was easy! And they're so delicious. I really can't get enough of these.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 9

While not exactly a holiday cookie, this recipe is one that is special to me and my kids. This is my daughter's own recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Like everything else she does, it starts with my basic recipe and she adds a little something special that makes them unique. From my family to yours...

Minnie Chip Cookies
1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate MnM's
1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Have Mom cream shortening, butter and sugars together. Crush eggs over bowl, remove bits of shell, add vanilla. Have Mom mix well. Stir in flour, salt and soda (add the last 3/4 cup flour slowly, depending on your altitude and humidity, you might not need it all). Wipe or sweep up all the extra sugar and flour that you may have scattered about.
Measure out your favorite cookie 'bits' (MnM's, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, nuts, raisins, craisins, coconut, candy bits, chocolate chunks, dried cherries, etc...) and mix into dough. Use small measuring cups (1/4 or 1/8 cups) so that they're easy to handle and you get to measure and pour many times. Roll cookies into loose 2-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 8

I think this is my husband's all-time favorite cookie... if he has a favorite anything. They're definitely a change from the same-old-same-old cookies that you get this time of year. Give it a try!

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Sift together flour, soda, salt and cream of tartar and mix with liquids.

Mix the 2 tbsp sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Form dough into 1-inch balls and
roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes or until set and edges are golden. Immediately remove from cookie sheet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 7

I made you wait an extra day for that last winning cookie recipe huh? I hope it was worth it. Here it is...

The Queen of the Cookies. Missy and her recipe for Butter Cookies

Butter Cookies
1 lb butter softened (the original owner of this recipe insists this is best done on the counter overnight)

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

teaspoon salt
4 cups flour

Beat butter and sugar together well. Beat in egg and vanilla until mixture lightens in color. Gradually sift in salt and flour. (Sifting is very important for texture as well as ensuring that the dough won't clog the cookie press.) Fill cookie press using rectangle disk (produces long flat strips – or use whatever you want.) Press onto un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 min at 375º or until golden and just starting to brown at the edges. If doing strips, immediately cut into 2" strips with edge of spatula while still on tray.

Monday, December 8, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 6

I know you can buy your own gingerbread house kit from the store... but isn't it more fun to make your own (the answer is yes). So here's a fun family-night activity for you. For the truly ambitious, here is how to make your own gingerbread house. For the fainter of heart, gingerbread men are always fun. Last year I let my husband be in charge of the decorating table and we ended up with NBA All Star gingerbread men, Masked Mexican Wrestler gingerbread men and even little missionaries in shirts and ties. He's an artist.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup water

Cream shortening and sugar. Sift flour with salt, soda and spices. Blend flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with molasses and water. You should have a very firm dough. Chill at least 1 hour.

Roll your dough out to a desired thickness (about 1/4 inch). Cut your gingerbread men, or the shapes you need for your house. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes (less for soft gingerbread men, more for crispier house walls). Cool and decorate (or assemble).

If you take on the Gingerbread House Challenge, I want to see your creations! E-mail me at joesgirljeri {at} gmail {dot} com. I am planning to make one too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 5

Today we're sharing the Most Beautiful Cookie recipe from our cookie swap. Winning this category hands-down was sweet Kelsey from Vanilla Joy and her Circus Animal Cookies. It was almost impossible to get a picture of these - my kids could not stop eating them!

Kelsey's Homemade Circus Animal Cookies
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cream butter and sugar together, add eggs one at a time and mix well. Sift dry ingredients into the wet and mix until dough forms. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.

Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes and transfer to baking sheet. Obviously Kelsey did darling star shapes but you can use any little cookie cutter you like. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until set and slightly golden.

Melt one package of almond bark according to package instructions. Add 2 spoonfuls of shortening to thin the mixture. Dip cookies into melted almond bark and lay on wax paper. Coat with sprinkles immediately. Let dry 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 4

Last year I had a cookie swap with a group of friends and it was so much fun that we decided it would be an annual tradition. We vote for prizes each year, in different Cookie Categories. This year we had:

Queen of the Cookie (best-tasting, most festive and all-around best cookie)

Miss Congeniality (gracious runner-up)

Most Beautiful Cookie (swimsuit competition)

So today I am sharing the recipe for the Miss Congeniality Cookies. I'm starting with these because, well... I won! Also I have to get permission to put the other recipes on here. So without further ado.. Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.

I like oatmeal cookies with raisins and cinnamon just as much as the next gal. But not everyone is. So here is my mix-and-match recipe for the perfect oatmeal cookie... just add what you like!

Your Favorite Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup fruit (dried cherries, cranberries, raisins)
1/2 cup sweets (chocolate chips, white chocolate chunks, dark chocolate MnM's)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios)

(You don't have to add the cinnamon if you don't want to. Maybe put in a drop of almond extract with the dried cherries, white chocolate and almonds. Mmmmm)

Cream butter and sugars. Add vanilla and egg, mix well. Sift in flour, soda and salt, mix well. Your dough should be stiff, add more flour if you need to. We live at a high altitude and I find that I always need a bit more flour or my cookies are flat and crisp instead of staying puffy.

By hand, fold in your fruit, sweets and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool one minute and remove from cookie sheets. Enjoy your award-winning cookie.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 3

Christmas is not complete without sugar cookies. They are a great family project - fun to make, decorate and eat together. And, for the purpose of illustration, let's pretend that this is not a pumpkin cookie, but rather something more Christmasy... like a tree.

Best Rolled Sugar Cookies
1 cups butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter, shortening and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time and mix well. Sift in dry ingredients and combine. The dough should be stiff - add more flour if needed. Cover and chill for at least one hour. Chill the dough. You can chill too... make some hot chocolate or something.

Roll the dough out to your desired thickness. I like big, fat, puffy sugar cookies so I roll mine out to 1/4 inches. Cut the dough with your cookie cutters (this is a great place for the kids to help out) and transfer the shapes onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until the edges are slightly toasted. When cool, decorate and enjoy.

Buttercream icing recipe
Powdered sugar glaze recipe

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12 Days of Cookies - day 2

These are some of my husband's favorite cookies so, even though they are simple, I had to include them in our Christmas Countdown. If I don't feel like using all of the dough, I seal it in a zip-lock bag and save it for another day.

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp raw or sanding sugar (the big, coarse-grained sugar) OR un-wrapped chocolate kisses

Cream the butter, shortening, peanut butter and sugars together. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Sift the baking soda, salt and flour in and mix to combine. The dough should be thick, like play-dough.

For regular peanut butter cookies, roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on an un-greased cookie sheet. With a fork, make a criss-cross pattern and slightly flatten the cookie (you will press the cookie down with the fork 2 times, at right-angles). Sprinkle with the raw or sanding sugar. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until cookie is set and edges are just slightly browned. Store in a plastic container to keep them soft.

For peanut-butter kiss cookies, roll the dough into balls but do not flatten them. Bake as directed above. Right as you take the cookie out of the oven, press the un-wrapped chocolate kiss into the center of the cookie, letting the edges crack. The heat of the cookie will melt the chocolate kiss but it will keep its shape. These are the best when they're warm.

Monday, December 1, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookies

Mmmm, the holiday baking season has started and it's time to think about my personal favorite treat - cookies! I'm putting together my 12 favorite cookie recipes (some easy, some complex, some traditional) for your baking enjoyment. Happy Holidays!

Anise & Chocolate Almond Biscotti
My grandparents are Italian so this crisp, mildly-sweet little cookie has always been a favorite of mine. Dipped in a cup of hot chocolate, it's the perfect treat on a cold day. If you don't like the flavor of anise, try orange extract!

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon anise extract, or 3 drops anise oil

In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar and anise flavoring until well blended. Add baking powder. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stir into the egg mixture to form a heavy dough (you might not use the entire 3 1/4 cups). Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

For the chocolate biscotti, make another batch with the same recipe, substituting the anise extract for 2 tsp almond extract. Add 1/4 cup baking cocoa and 1/2 cup toasted almonds.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Divide each dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a roll as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1 inch thickness. Make one roll of plain chocolate and one roll of plain anise. Divide the remaining two pices of dough into halves. Sandwich the two halves of different dough together, roll out and twist slightly before pressing down to 1 inch thickness. You should have 1 roll of anise, one of chocolate and two rolls of the twisted dough.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. When the cookies are just cool enough to handle, remove from baking sheet and slice each one crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Don't let the cookies get too cool or they will crumble when you cut them, and I found that a sharp bread knife worked the best. Place the slices cut side up back onto the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side. Slices should be lightly toasted.

Serve plain or dip 1/3 of the end in melted chocolate.

Blog re-design

I'm not sold on the new color scheme. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving... a woman didn't invent this holiday

Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm sure not too many people have been reading anyway. As we go through all of the preparations for Turkey Day, I am starting to think that there's no WAY a woman invented this holiday. Let's take a look back in history

*insert wavy flashback-style screen*

1492 - Christopher Columbus set sail in a fleet of three ships - the El Nino, the Pinto and the Carne Asada Steak Taco. After months, perhaps years, of sailing, they landed in what they thought was America. Except that it was the Caribbean. Since the ship was sailed by men, they weren't able to stop and ask for directions. Instead, they agreed to tell everyone that they had reached the Americas, declared victory and shared a big high-five.

1620 - the Pilgrims set sail from England. This time they were accompanied by their wives, who wisely asked for directions and this time the ship landed in the real America. Unfortunately the Mayflower charged extra for non-carry-on baggage and the Pilgrims had to leave behind their food storage, electric blankets and iPods. This caused much suffering the first winter.

1621 - Having befriended the local Wampanoag Indian tribe, the surviving Pilgrims celebrated with a harvest feast. The Indians brought local delicacies, such as stewed squirrel and corn while the Pilgrims shared things from "across the pond", like smallpox. The Indians introduced the concept of "The Turkey Bowl" where the least-physically-fit tribesmen competed in feats of strength and daring. The 100-meter Big Rock Toss was a favorite of the Wampanoag men. This resulted in many sprained ankles and much complaining. This primitive tradition continues to this day, except that instead of log-tossing and rock-heaving, the "feats" have been exchanged for weekend-warrior football. Meanwhile the women cooked the turkey (known then as "venison").

1784 - Ben Franklin writes a letter to his daughter, declaring the turkey to be more noble than the chosen national bird - the eagle. Various celebrity groups speak out in favor of preserving the turkey and declaring it a protected species. Other celebrities organize a benefits concert to protect the rights of the eagle. Elton John writes a song called "Giblet Wizard". The debate is ended when the Supreme Court declares the turkey "delicious" and the eagle retains its National Bird status.

1934 - With the advancement of women's rights, the ladies begin to wonder why their husbands don't help out in the kitchen, especially with the big holiday dinners. Enlightened men everywhere rose to the challenge and instead of playing football on Thanksgiving day, began to watch it on television. They reasoned that with less sprained ankles to attend to, the women would have less work making the dinner.

1985 - Redneck men attempt to revolutionize Thanksgiving by the invention of Turducken. Instead they just make it worse. Other culinary mistakes include; Stove Top Stuffing-esque Bread Nuggets, no-bake cheesecake and Jell-O with shaved carrots.

2003 - In a misguided attempt to help in the kitchen, men introduce turkey to their other two loves - oil and fire. Countless men burn down their homes in deep-fried turkey fires.

Today - Thanksgiving traditions continue, unimpeded. While men watch football and nurse their sprained ankles and singed eyebrows, women continue the tradition of delicious food and family-togetherness. I hope every one of you ladies has a wonderful holiday. Be sure to hide the matches from your husband.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do you know...?

...that the Puffs Kleenex tissues are not the ones with lotiony-soft goodness of tissues? Oh, you can get Puffs Ultra, or Puffs Plus, or Puffs with Vicks or Puffs Containing Butterscotch Pudding... but of course your added features cost more. Didn't regular old Puffs used to be the good ones?

So imagine how angry I am that, right as my kids got colds, I stocked up on several boxes of the base-model Puffs For People Who Don't Read Labels Carefully Non-Lotion Tissues. Only to find that they're not the softy-soft tissues for the happy noses of little ones. Or me for that matter!

That is my Nyquil-inspired rant for this evening. You can bet that hubby is picking up premium Kleenex on his way home from work. Happy weekend.

Go Utes!

Tom & Lucy's Art Shoppe

I'm going to check this out today!
What: a boutique filled with local vendors for all your pre-Christmas shopping fun
When: today and tomorrow
Where: here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Basic Pie Crust

I struggled for years to find a basic pie crust recipe that would work for me. My mother's recipe (while fabulous when she makes it) always ended up tough and rubbery for me. Others were hard to roll out, difficult to work with, or just plain complicated.

I found the perfect recipe while watching (what else?) the Food Network. This is my go-to recipe now and it turns out perfectly every time. The only change I make is to add a little more flour if I'm using my large tart pan. I omit the lemon zest if I'm making a non-fruit pie (like chocolate or pecan). And of course leave out the sugar if you're using the crust for something savory, like meat pie.

For busy holidays like Thanksgiving, I usually make my pie crusts the week before. I wrap them in plastic, store them in the fridge and they're waiting for me when I'm ready to use them.

Happy holidays, etc...


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On the menu

Here are a few new recipes I want to try out this Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Pie - from the recipe collection of Gourmet Magazine editor Ruth Reichl, this is a sweet pie that tastes just like pumpkin pie... but without the watery, goopey texture of store-bought pumpkin pie. Bleh. Only my mom makes good pumpkin pie.

Lemon Curd Pie - not exactly a recipe but an experiment that I've had in the back of my mind for a while. The thing I love about lemon curd is the sourness. Pudding pie is too plain and too sweet and too boring. I plan on stirring a tablespoon of cornstarch into this lemon curd recipe and using it for pie filling.

Creamy Pumpkin Spice Pie - Marie from Make & Takes had this recipe for a scrumptious creamy pumpkin dip. It was especially good with gingersnaps. So my plan is to make the filling a bit thicker (with some gelatin or a pudding mix or... something. It's not planned out yet) and pouring the filling into a crust made with ginger snap cookie crumbs. Oh yeah!

In case you think we just sit around and eat all kinds of pie for T-day (you WISH you were here instead of your mom's house!) here are some other things I mean to try.

Sweet Potato with Pecan Streusel
In case you're not drooling, let's add a picture to this one...
Trust Food Network Pretty-boy Tyler Florence to come up with this. It looks like a winner though. I think I'm going to give it a whirl. Maybe it will make a test-run this week.

Cranberry Apple Wheel - I did test this one at cooking club last week and it was really good. I used cream-cheese frosting to drizzle over the top instead of the powdered sugar glaze.

Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce - I don't know about normal kids, but mine will eat their body weight in what Joe calls Can-berries. And last time I read the nutritional info... they're less good-for you and more magically-sugared-up than I suspected. So we're trying the homemade variety this year. I think I'm saving some empty cans to "jell" the sauce so the kids will think it's the same. Bahahaha.

Mmmm, I feel like I'm gaining weight just browsing here. It's all for a good cause though. What are YOUR favorite recipes for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Traditional stuffing

With Thanksgiving coming up, it's time to start breaking out our traditional recipes. This week I'll be sharing some of our family favorites. Starting with this one for Mushroom Stuffing

This is a really traditional stuffing, made with onions, celery and sage. And I even won a contest with Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine with it. It was awesome. I even have a copy of the magazine autographed by Rachael Ray herself (I should find that...) Ouch... I think I pulled something while patting myself on the back. Seriously though, it's really good and we make it every year. And then we make StoveTop Stuffing-esque Seasoned Bread Nuggets for my family-in-law members who aren't into really good food.

You can get the entire recipe here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hoagland pictures

This was such a fun family... but we had terrible luck with the weather. It was cold, threatening to rain and totally clouded over. Still, their little girl was so darling and willing to do just about anything I asked her to. We didn't get very many pictures of the baby because I was just too afraid to have her out for long.

I would so wear these boots if they were my size...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Perfect, easy chili

A few months ago, during the Bounteous Harvest Bottling Season, I made some homemade salsa. After getting one bowl that was much MUCH too hot, I did the rest very mild and figured that I could just chop up another jalapeño when I opened the bottle.

There are lots of great, basic salsa recipes, like this one, this one and this one. Read these handy tips if you've never done it before. My husband's family are big salsa makers/eaters so I just asked him what flavors he liked and started adding things (onions, different peppers, garlic) until it tasted good to me. Once I had a big pot I put it in bottles, ran it through the water-bath canner and now I have a shelf full of salsa downstairs.

I like having the salsa because it's a quick and easy snack to set out if we have guests (and if you know us, we always have guests). But the other night I discovered and even better use for it! I wanted to make chili but I didn't have onions and was too lazy to go to the store. I had made up my mind to make boring chili (because boring chili is better than Tuna Noodle Helper for dinner... again). When I went downstairs to get cans of tomatoes I saw the salsa bottles and figured that they contained all of the ingredients I needed for chili. Plus everything was chopped, mixed and measured already! So I dumped in a bottle of homemade salsa and a can of tomato sauce for extra liquid... perfect. It was slightly spicy but not over-the-top with just the right mix of garlic and onion. I'm never using a recipe again.

I need to remember this for next year during tomato season - it's not just salsa, it's chili-base too!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Walters pictures

I've done pictures for this family a few times and they just keep getting cuter. Especially little Mylie and her adorable Cindy-Lou-Who pigtails.

Tanner was willing to make a variety of faces... but few of them were smiling ones. His dad was able to get him to laugh but nothing I was doing worked. Tough crowd!

We played around with a pretty sunset too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holiday sale ending!

Tomorrow is the last day of the Holiday card sale! Have you ordered your cards? All you have to do is e-mail your pictures and card choice to me. I'll create a custom card just for you and e-mail a proof for you to approve. Within a few days, your finished cards will be delivered right to your door. No lines, no crowds and best of all, no department-store cookie-cutter cards!

E-mail jerilynphoto {at} gmail {dot} com with any questions, or to place your order today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Perfect sugar cookies

I struggle with rolled sugar cookies. Some recipes flatten out too much, making a crispy blob that looks nothing like what you cut. Some are too hard. Some are bland. After testing dozens of recipes, I've finally found a sugar cookie recipe that turned out perfect for me. The only change I made to the recipe was to add 1 tsp. of Cream of Tartar.

Obviously we made these Halloween cookies a few weeks ago. But the recipe will be perfect for all your fall/winter/weight-gaining holiday purposes.

This is a project that your kids will love to be involved in. And it's great to let them help, especially if you aren't concerned about the quality of the results. So what if you have some non-perfect shapes, some unusual frosting choices and a few extra sprinkles? They love to be involved in the work.

My kids helped me roll the dough and cut the shapes. I find that the toy rolling pins (the ones that come with play kitchens or Play-Dough sets) work the best for little hands.

Then, after Bart had eaten his fill of frosting and was taking a sugar-coma nap, Lisa frosted and sprinkled and decorated to her heart's content (see top picture). After about 2 hours of this she had decorated 4 entire cookies. She takes her decorating very seriously.

Happy holidays... etc


Monday, November 10, 2008

Oh no! A new hobby.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before on this blog, but I'm an editor and designer for a series of craft magazines. One of them is a beading magazine and I'm working on an article about beaded watch bands. This is one of my pieces that I'll probably use for the book... unless someone gets it for Christmas.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Holiday Card Winner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Holiday card giveaway! And remember, even if you didn't win, all orders are 20% off until the 13th. You still have plenty of time to order your cards at the discounted price. Because I design your card personally instead of using an automated system, I can personalize your pictures and holiday greeting to create a one-of-a-kind holiday card that you'll love. Much better than the department store cards. Plus you'll have your cards ready to go long before Thanksgiving - which is one less thing you have to worry about in December! How's that for win-win-win?

On to the giveaway. I had planned on having an actual "drawing", with slips of paper and the Bingo cage and a handsome, shirtless assistant. Turns out Bingo cages are hard to come by and my handsome assistant was shirted up and gone to work. So we had to make do with Plan B,

Our picked-at-random winner is-

AL E. 08

who said "You do such beautiful work! I like the Simply Dotty design best!

My friend said if you wrinkle up your contest entries you are more likely to win.


Well, either the extra-wrinkly comment or the extra entries helped because you're the winner! Send your pictures and your favorite card style to jerilynphoto {at} gmail {dot} com and I'll start working on your card.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Door wreaths

Don't forget the Christmas Card giveaway! It's the last day to enter. Also if you've added the button, or blogged about the contest, don't forget to e-mail to get your extra entries.

I loved the wreath I made for October. The sunflowers were bright and colorful and I really liked these funky jingle-bell spiders that I found at a craft store. The whole thing was just what I like - festive without being Your Average Craft Store Wreath. My friend Becca Jo made me go and fix my card reader so you can now see pictures of my creation.

So now it's time to take it down and hang it in the basement for a year. And I totally don't know what I want to do for November. Suggestions?